A lot has happened in Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s life since the real estate agent and race car driver broke off his engagement to Becca Kufrin and proposed to Lauren Burnham on "The Bachelor" last March. Luyendyk and Burnham have planned their upcoming wedding, scheduled for Jan. 12; traveled the world; and bought a new home.
In November, they shared very exciting news with their fans: They're expecting their first child.
As part of our Voices series, Luyendyk looks back on all the "great moments" he's experienced this year, including the day he discovered Burnham is pregnant.
What an incredible and life-changing year. I look back at my time on "The Bachelor" and it almost feels like it could have been five years ago — in reality, we finished shooting in January!
I became the Bachelor to much surprise of the public (and myself), and it was tough facing criticism throughout my journey. I made the decision of breaking off an engagement as I had a change of heart. These are just the simple facts, but there is so much more to this story.
I think former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: "Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you'll be criticized anyway."
In an ultra-produced show with so many moving parts, I found it hard to be myself. Ultimately, I made the wrong decision in front of millions watching at home. With space to think and time away from the show I knew where my heart belonged, and I am so thankful my now fiancée, Lauren, gave us a chance. I'm also thankful I took that leap.
I cannot even describe what it is like being the Bachelor. While filming, there is an immense pressure. Hundreds of people are involved in production and it all centers around you. As a person who doesn't like to be the center of attention, this weight is very real. The experience is unlike anything else in this world. You make unforgettable memories and after months of your life are documented, you wait eagerly to see how the show turns out.
I always describe the experience as reading the best book you've ever read with all the beautiful details and moments you paint in your mind, then watching the movie version and leaving disappointed because so much was left out. This is how I describe my experience — the focus was on all the wrong parts in the book.
When it's airing, the entire world has an opinion on your personal life (as expected) but you're also reliving a life that was set months and months ago. "The Bachelor" films in the fall and airs in the winter/spring. The timeline is so odd, because the public is so invested in the decisions you made four months ago and it feels like, in a way, you're stuck in the past until finally the show is over and life goes back to some degree of normalcy (but not really).
The day you finally break free of the franchise and can be a couple in public is so exciting. Lauren and I joked on "Jimmy Kimmel" that although we were engaged we hadn't even been out to dinner together in public. The reality is all the couples that meet on the show know each other in such an intimate way, but at the same time they don't know much about how daily life will be together. We couldn’t wait to be a "normal couple" and go out to the movies, grocery shop ... you know, the simple things.
Life since the show has been a wild and fun ride, and Lauren hasn't left my side since. Right when the show finished airing, we went to Iceland and Spain, and those are some of the fondest memories I have from this year. We were finally out in public and exploring the world together. I would catch myself looking at her when she wouldn't see me and I would think to myself that being with her is the best decision I've ever made in my life.
Shortly after, Lauren moved to Phoenix and we bought our first home together! I'm a realtor in Arizona so it was fun touring what feels like around 70 places before we picked a new construction in an older, established neighborhood. We wanted something that we could call ours for this next chapter in life. Lauren had moved from Virginia Beach and buying our house was a big moment for us as a couple.
I still race about 10-15 races a year, so it was exciting to show Lauren that side of my life. It's such a big part of what makes me, me. We went all over from cities like Toronto all the way to Perth, Australia. I even won a race with her family there in Detroit, which was a big highlight for me.
Planning the wedding has been a big part of our year, too. Jan. 12, 2019, is right around the corner and although it's a private wedding, we’ll have some of our "Bachelor" family there to usher us into this next chapter of life.
So many great moments this year, but nothing compares to when Lauren and I found out she was pregnant. Lauren had been craving the funniest types of food (like meatballs in the morning!) and I sensed there was a change in her. She brushed it off but her friend had a few tests left over from when she was trying and she dropped one off at our house. Lauren took the test and went into the kitchen. I was in the bathroom and watched as that window changed to a plus sign. I immediately started to cry. I walked the test into the kitchen and told her, holding the test in my hand. Hilariously, Lauren was in complete shock/denial and we went to the grocery store to get ice cream (another hint) and five more tests just to be sure. We sat up happy and amazed at what's in store for us. Our life has been like a wonderful dream, and just when I thought I couldn't be any luckier, this news came into our lives.
It's so wild to think that just a year ago we were shooting a TV show and now we have this life together. Soon we'll be husband and wife and not too long after, we'll be parents in June. It seems so surreal in the absolute very best possible way.